Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Christine Goerke - Strauss Elektra BBC Proms London

The second day of the Richard Strauss weekend at the BBC Proms saw Richard Strauss's Elektra performed at the Royal Albert Hall on 31 August 2014 by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Semyon Bychkov, with Christine Goerke in the title role. Felicity Palmer was Clytemnestra, Gun-Brit Barkmin was Chrysothemis, Robert Kunzli was Aegisthus and Johan Reuter was Orestes. The concert staging was by Justin Way.

Christine Goerke - Strauss Elektra BBC Proms London

The second day of the Richard Strauss weekend at the BBC Proms saw Richard Strauss's Elektra performed at the Royal Albert Hall on 31 August 2014 by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Semyon Bychkov, with Christine Goerke in the title role. Felicity Palmer was Clytemnestra, Gun-Brit Barkmin was Chrysothemis, Robert Kunzli was Aegisthus and Johan Reuter was Orestes. The concert staging was by Justin Way.

Powerful Mahler Symphony no 2 Harding, BBC Proms London

Triumphant! An exceptionally stimulating Mahler Symphony No 2 from Daniel Harding and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, BBC Prom 57 at the Royal Albert Hall. Harding's Mahler Tenth performances (especially with the Berliner Philharmoniker) are pretty much the benchmark by which all other performances are assessed. Harding's Mahler Second is informed by such an intuitive insight into the whole traverse of the composer's work that, should he get around to doing all ten together, he'll fulfil the long-held dream of "One Grand Symphony", all ten symphonies understood as a coherent progression of developing ideas.

Nina Stemme's stunning Strauss Salome, BBC Proms London

The BBC Proms continued its Richard Strauss celebrations with a performance of his first major operatic success Salome. Nina Stemme led forces from the Deutsche Oper, Berlin,at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday 30 August 2014,the first of a remarkable pair of Proms which sees Salome and Elektra performed on successive evenings

Santa Fe Opera Presents Updated, at One Point Up-ended, Don Pasquale

On August 9, 2014, Santa Fe Opera presented a new updated production of Don Pasquale that set the action in the 1950s. Chantal Thomas’s Act I scenery showed the Don’s furnishing as somewhat worn and decidedly dowdy. Later, she literally turned the Don’s home upside down!

Dolora Zajick Premieres Composition

At a concert in the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in San Jose, California, on August 22, 2014, a few selections preceded the piece the audience had been waiting for: the world premiere of Dolora Zajick’s brand new composition, an opera scene entitled Roads to Zion.

Santa Fe Opera Presents Huang Ruo's Sun Yat-sen

By emphasizing the love between Sun Yat-sen and Soong Ching-ling, Ruo showed us the human side of this universally revered modern Chinese leader. Writer Lindsley Miyoshi has quoted the composer as saying that the opera is “about four kinds of love.” It speaks of affection between friends, between parents and children, between lovers, and between patriots and their country.

Britten War Requiem - Andris Nelsons, CBSO, BBC Prom 47

In light of the 2012 half-centenary of the premiere in the newly re-built Coventry Cathedral of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, the 2013 centennial celebrations of the composer’s own birth, and this year’s commemorations of the commencement of WW1, it is perhaps not surprising that the War Requiem - a work which was long in gestation and which might be seen as a summation of the composer’s musical, political and personal concerns - has been fairly frequently programmed of late. And, given the large, multifarious forces required, the potent juxtaposition of searing English poetry and liturgical Latin, and the profound resonances of the circumstances of the work’s commission and premiere, it would be hard to find a performance, as William Mann declared following the premiere, which was not a ‘momentous occasion’.

Santa Fe Opera Presents an Imaginative Carmen

Santa Fe opera has presented Carmen in various productions since 1961. This year’s version by Stephen Lawless takes place during the recent past in Northern Mexico near the United States border. The performance on August 6, 2014, featured Ana Maria Martinez as a monumentally sexy Gypsy who was part of a drug smuggling group.

Elgar Sea Pictures : Alice Coote, Mark Elder Prom 31

Sir Mark Elder and the Hallé Orchestra persuasively balanced passion and poetry in this absorbing Promenade concert. Elder’s tempi were fairly relaxed but the result was spaciousness rather than ponderousness, with phrases given breadth and substance, and rich orchestral colours permitted to make startling dramatic impact.

Berio Sinfonia, Shostakovich, BBC Proms

Although far from perfect, the performance of Berio’s Sinfonia in the first half of this concert was certainly its high-point; indeed, I rather wish that I had left at the interval, given the tedium induced by Shostakovich’s interminable Fourth Symphony. Still, such was the programme Semyon Bychkov had been intended to conduct. Alas, illness had forced him to withdraw, to be replaced at short notice by Vasily Petrenko.

Four countertenors : Handel Rinaldo Glyndebourne

Handel's Rinaldo was first performed in 1711 at London's King's Theatre. Handel's first opera for London was designed to delight and entertain, combining good tunes, great singing with a rollicking good story. Robert Carsen's 2011 production of the opera for Glyndebourne reflected this with its tongue-in-cheek Harry Potter meets St Trinian's staging.

Santa Fe Opera Presents The Impresario and Le Rossignol

On August 7, 2014, the Santa Fe Opera presented a double bill of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Impresario and Igor Stravinsky’s Le Rossignol (The Nightingale). The Impresario deals with the casting of an opera and Le Rossignol tells the well-known fairy tale about the plain gray bird with an exquisite song.

Barber in the Beehive State

Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre has gifted opera enthusiasts with a thrilling Barber, and I don’t mean . . . of Seville.

Stravinsky : Oedipus Rex, BBC Proms

In typical Proms fashion, BBC Prom 28 saw Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex performed in an eclectic programme which started with Beethoven's Egmont Overture and also featured Electric Preludes by the contemporary Australian composer Brett Dean. Sakari Oramo,was making the first of his Proms appearances this year, conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Singers and BBC Symphony Chorus.

Santa Fe Opera Presents a Passionate Fidelio

Santa Fe Opera presented Beethoven’s Fidelio for the first time in 2014. Since the sides of the opera house are open, the audience watched the sun redden the low hanging clouds and set below the Sangre de Cristo mountains while Chief Conductor Harry Bicket led the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra in the rousing overture. At the same time, Alex Penda as the title character readied herself for the ordeal to come as she endeavored to rescue her unjustly imprisoned husband.

Rameau Grand Motets, BBC Proms

Best of the season so far! William Christie and Les Arts Florissants performed Rameau Grand Motets at late night Prom 17.

Adriana Lecouvreur, Opera Holland Park

Twelve years after Opera Holland Park's first production of Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur, the opera made a welcome return.

Back to the Beginnings: Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria at Iford Opera.

The Italianate cloister setting at Iford chimes neatly with Monteverdi’s penultimate opera The Return of Ulysses, as the setting cannot but bring to mind those early days of the musical genre.

Schoenberg : Moses und Aron, Welsh National Opera, London

Once again, we find ourselves thanking an unrepresentable being for Welsh National Opera’s commitment to its mission.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Joseph Kaiser as Tamino [Photo by Mike Hoban courtesy of The Royal Opera House]
06 Feb 2011

Die Zauberflöte, Covent Garden

Premiered in 2003, and aired again in 2005 and 2008, this current revival of David McVicar’s Die Zauberflöte brings many ‘old hands’ back together to re-visit oft-frequented roles on familiar ground.

W. A. Mozart: Die Zauberflöte

Tamino: Joseph Kaiser; Pamina: Kate Royal; Papageno: Christopher Maltman; Queen of the Night: Jessica Pratt; Sarastro: Franz-Josef Selig; Monostatos: Peter Hoare; Speaker of the Temple: Matthew Best; Papagena: Anna Devin; First Lady: Elisabeth Meister; Second Lady: Kai Rüütel; Tird Lady: Gaynor Keeble. David McVicar, Director. Colin Davis, Conductor. John Macfarlane, Designer. Paule Constable, Lighting designer. Leah Hausmann, Movement director. Lee Blakeley, Revival director. Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London, Tuesday 1 February 2011.

Above: Joseph Kaiser as Tamino

All photos by Mike Hoban courtesy of The Royal Opera House

 

This production’s first and only Sarastro, Franz-Josef Selig, steps back into the High Priest’s hallowed shoes; several esteemed soloists from the 2008 run return - Christopher Maltman reprising his confident, mischievous Papageno, and Kate Royal once again presenting a dignified and elegant Pamina. With the original conductor, Sir Colin Davis, at the helm, a smooth sailing should be guaranteed; however, there were a few unexpected wobbles on this opening night, and if the ship didn’t hit the rocks it certainly lost its moorings on occasion.

John Macfarlane’s designs are still strikingly sumptuous: effortless transitions between lavish tableaux, packed with period details and evocatively lit by Paule Constable, transport one — as if gliding aloft a magic carpet — to other worlds. Die Zauberflöte is a compendium of styles, forms and moods: Masonic mysticism rubs shoulders with pantomime farce; erudite Enlightenment philosophy sits alongside an earthy tale of human endeavour and love. And McVicar and his designer, John Macfarlane, skilfully conjure and combine these domains: scientific astronomical apparatus whisk us back to an empirical eighteenth-century, the sweeping glare of an outsized crescent moon casts a supernatural spell. So, it is perhaps all the more surprising that a few ‘false notes’ are allowed to creep in.

ZAUBER-1024_0508-MALTMAN&RO.gifChristopher Maltman as Papageno and Kate Royal as Pamina

Maltman’s Papageno is warm-hearted and exuberant. Although perhaps not exploiting the full colour range and power of his increasingly varied palette and rich baritonal resonance, Maltman revelled in the moments of comedic flippancy and fun; admittedly this was sometimes at the expense of rhythmic precision, and he occasionally lost touch with the pit — thereby unintentionally emphasising the bird-catcher’s anarchic streak.

As Sarastro, Franz-Josef Selig, struck an imposing physical figure: regal, poised and self-possessed. His diction was impressive (alone among the cast, his is singing in his native tongue), and although he took a little while to settle down in, particularly in the middle range, his performance was commanding and secure.

Kate Royal’s soprano is strong, sure and gorgeous in tone, but while gracious and composed, I feel that physically and vocally she lacks some of the child-like naivety which is integral to the role of Pamina. There was no doubting the beauty and grace of her vocal line. Her duet with Papageno, ‘Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen’, was achingly touching, but was equalled in affecting loveliness by ‘Ach, ich fühl's’. Royal’s strength and control were not quite matched by her Tamino, Joseph Kaiser, and this was particularly noticeable in the lover’s ‘reunion scene’. Kaiser’s portrayal was rather one-dimensional but he compensated for some occasionally wooden acting with a flexible, light voice aptly conveying the youthful optimism and bravery of the idealistic hero.

ZAUBER-1024_0148-(C)MIKE-HO.gifFrom Left To Right: Elisabeth Meister as First Lady, Jessica Pratt as Queen of the Night, Kai Rüütel as Second Lady and at the back, Gaynor Keeble as Third Lady

As the Queen of the Night, Jessica Pratt, making her role and house debut, had all the notes, and hit them cleanly. While her top notes were warm and true, without a hint of stridency or loss of power, her lower register projected less well and she did not really convey the menace of the would-be murderer. A general lack of dramatic and musical subtlety, as in the recitative to her first aria, ‘O zittre nicht’, diluted the impact of the Queen’s vengeful terrorising.

British tenor, Peter Hoare, was an eccentric Monostatos, who in this production is made to bear the bulk of the burden for creating comedy and lightness. A caricature villain, he is less dangerous racial threat, the embodiment of ‘otherness’, and more a harmless, if ridiculous, be-wigged dandy, the epitome of vanity. Matthew Best was an authoritative Speaker, imperiously directing Tamino to the ‘right path’, effectively establishing a moment of dramatic gravitas at the end of Act 1.

Several Jette Parker Young Artists were given opportunities to shine. The First and Second Ladies, Elisabeth Meister and Kai Rüütel respectively, were joined by the more experienced Gaynor Keeble to form a well-blended trio. Their stage-craft, however, seemed rather undirected, particularly in the opening scene where, given that the hand-manipulated, puppet serpent (just one of many of McVicar’s overt debts to eighteenth-century theatrical paraphernalia), though wonderfully charming, hardly chills the blood. Thus, the black-clad Ladies need to generate an air of peril and intimidation; but, rhythmic co-ordination was a little wayward and there was a lack of projection. As Papagena, JPYA Anna Devin — attractive both vocally and physically — should have been an irresistible ‘catch’ for Papageno. But, inexplicably, she was presented not as a beauty disguised as a beggar, but in attire more fitting for a bordello boudoir — no wonder Papageno looked away in disgust.

The chorus was rather ragged and some of the responsibility for the poor ensemble must rest with Sir Colin Davis, a supremely experienced Mozartian, but who nevertheless failed to pace this production effectively. After a wonderfully stately start to the overture — where the warm weight, focused intonation and glossy sheen of the horns powerfully established the mood of Masonic majesty — the Allegro failed to catch fire, and the spark of conflict and contrast which should drive the opera forward was never quite ignited. (Moreover, the orb-carrying extras wandering rather purposelessly through the stalls hardly helped matters.) Davis chooses to ignore the period performance specialists’ preference for pace and nimbleness; but while this should not prevent an effective dramatic momentum being achieved, some of the tempi were overly ponderous — particularly the Priests’ March and Sarastro’s ‘O Isis and Osiris’ at the opening of Act 2 which was decidedly sluggish. Indeed, even Selig lost contact with the pit, a rare moment of discomposure. Davis was however sensitive to the soloists, controlling dynamics and texture to provide appropriate accompanying support, especially in the case of the Three Boys (Jacob Ramsay-Patel, Harry Stanton and Harry Manton) who shone through — and stayed in time …

Overall this was an enjoyable, if slightly unsatisfactory, opening night. Perhaps insufficient time was allotted to this well-known revival; if so, things should improve as the run progresses.

[Die Zauberflöte continues in repertory until Saturday 19 February.]

Claire Seymour

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):